Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Tuesday estimated former President Donald Trump maintains the support of a “hard 25%” of the GOP voter base.
While those voters would likely not back anyone but Trump, the overwhelming majority of Republicans would be open to other candidates in the 2024 presidential primaries, she argued.
“There are 75% other Republicans there that are looking for a place to be,” said Haley, who served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in the Trump administration before resigning in 2018.
Haley made those comments at a campaign event in Salem, New Hampshire — the first state on the primaries calendar — as she seeks the attention of voters amid what is expected to be a crowded field of GOP contenders. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is considering a run, also visited New Hampshire this week.
Haley, who was South Carolina governor prior to joining Trump’s Cabinet, said she isn’t planning on holding rallies, but will instead focus on more intimate events, like town halls.
“You have to go and answer the hard questions,” Haley said. “You have to go face to face. You can’t fly in and fly out.”
She also addressed polls, which currently appear dominated by Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying the numbers are subject to change as the race heats up.
Haley noted the downfall of two GOP 2016 presidential candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who both underperformed despite promising early polling.
“If you need examples, do I need to remind you about Jeb Bush? He had tons of money. Do I need to remind you about my friend Scott Walker? He was ‘Teflon Scott,’” Haley said.
Prior to visiting Salem, Haley made a campaign stop in Dover, where she addressed Monday’s school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, that killed three 9-year-old children and three adults.
Police said the shooter legally bought seven weapons, and used three of them in Monday’s attack.
Haley called for placing metal detectors in schools instead of gun-safety measures, like President Joe Biden’s proposed assault weapons ban.
“Everybody wants to talk about gun control,” she said. “My thing is, I don’t want to take away your ability to protect yourself until they do those things that protect those kids.”
Haley also added her voice to those calling for a nationwide ban on Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok.
“What are we waiting on? Joe Biden’s worried he’s going to lose younger voters?” Haley asked, echoing a worry shared by Democrats that a ban would upset young Americans.
Haley announced she is running for president in February, saying “it’s time for a new generation of leadership,” a veiled jab at Trump, 76, and Biden, 80.
She said previously that she wouldn’t enter the race if it meant challenging Trump, but then consulted Trump and jumped into the race.
“I said, ‘You should do it,’” Trump said. “I talked to her for a little while. I said, ‘Look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run.’”
More Republicans appear poised to join the contest in the coming months, including DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence.